Teacher infuses Ethiopian tribal culture in her classroom

Christine Corbin noticed a humanitarian catastrophe while teaching her students about the Omo River Valley tribes in Ethiopia two years ago. This triggered Corbin to apply and receive the Fund for Teachers Fellowship, a national non-profit award granted to teachers for self-designed projects.

“Since the day I found stunning photos on the Internet, I have had the deepest desire to know everything about these tribal people,” said the Riverstone International School art teacher.

The Omo River Valley tribes are facing lifestyle struggles because of the Gilgel Gibe III Dam that was constructed around their village in 2016. There is a shortage of food and government-sponsored modernization that is encroaching on their land.

Christine Corbin used this tent while visiting the Omo River Valley tribes.

“I was concerned,” she said. “My students and I wanted to do something tangible to preserve and save the beauty, art and the very lives of the tribes.”

The fellowship allowed Corbin to travel to remote areas of Southern Ethiopia during the month of July to analyze the tribes. She learned about their art, traditions, culture and customs.

Corbin had a guide who drove her around in a four-wheeler and at moments the trip got dangerous — traveling on rough roads and dealing with the local people. She lived with the tribes, ate with them, photographed them and communicated with them through her guide.

“I feel very fortunate I got to interact with these tribal people,” Corbin said. “Very few get to experience this.”

She now brings her experience back to the classroom. While teaching about the tribes she asks her students:

What is beauty?

Corbin teaches about the tribe’s culture, heritage and traditions through her photos and hands-on experience. She has enhanced her existing art lessons around the Omo River Valley tribes that include mask-making, portrait-painting, photography and art projects.

She hopes students will create meaningful, thoughtful art projects based on the Omo River Valley people, with the goal of displaying the paintings, photographs and masks in the school and community in order to educate others about these tribes and their importance in the world.

“My art classroom is one that fosters a learning environment where students become independent thinkers whose curiosity and creativity help them understand complex global issues,” she said.

Corbin plans to work with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Ada County in the summer to bring “What is beauty?” art lessons to kids.

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